Rage against the Machines

Posted in News on 31 Oct 2017

David Doherty, Managing Consultant, Douglas Scott

The legal sector is embracing technology like never before. One example of this, the Lawyer Challenge (20th-27th October) saw 112 lawyers pitted against CaseCrunch, an artificial intelligence system. Presented with the same factual scenarios of PPI mis-selling claims they were asked to predict (in yes or no format) whether the Financial Ombudsman would succeed in the claim. The aim was to secure the highest accuracy. The results were surprising with the lawyers’ hitting an accuracy of 62.3% compared to CaseCrunch’s outstanding victory at 86.6%. Marketing Director Rebecca Agliolo comments “the Challenge wasn’t about ‘winning or losing’; it was about showcasing the potential of artificial intelligence and changing the current paradigm not by talking, but by doing”. Described as a ‘Man v Machine challenge’ we are preconditioned in bipolar terms to either fear or embrace these transformations, however, humanity’s relationship with technology is much more complex.

It has been 18 years since the Matrix first graced our screens with a plot as fanciful as Alice In Wonderland.

In the grand scheme of time and space, 18 years is nothing but a heartbeat. In that short space of time technology has been progressing at a phenomenal rate. Technology is becoming obsolete within only a few months of release. It would appear Technology is in a race with itself, consuming itself and coming out the other end faster, stronger and smarter.

It was only last year that Elon Musk (billionaire entrepreneur, founder of Space X, Tesla, Paypal and a modern-day Tony Stark) was stating in his opinion “one in billions” chance that we’re not living in a computer simulation. 

His argument was “Forty years ago we had Pong. Like, two rectangles and a dot. That was what games were.”

“Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it's getting better every year. Soon we'll have virtual reality, augmented reality.

“If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let's imagine it's 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale”.

Discussing this subject around the “rate of change” is important. Are we moving too fast, if so, why?

Is this insatiable need for smarter, faster more intelligent technology being driven by the benefits AI can offer the whole of Mankind? Or by large multi-nationals ensuring shareholders satisfaction. Or indeed by governments in their attempt to increase “security” through the use of Data or by SMART Fighting machines.

In the Silicon Valley we are starting to see a trend within the Tech community who are personally “switching off” from the very platforms that they have helped create.

It is revealing that many of these younger technologists are turning off their own products, sending their children to elite Silicon Valley schools where iPhones, iPads and even laptops are banned. They appear to be listening to Biggie Smalls lyrics from their own youth about the perils of dealing crack cocaine: never get high on your own supply.

What is also telling about this phenomenon is that that these Technologists are mid 30’s. That is important as this is the generation who have lived through the introduction of the Internet and SMART phones. They remember what life was like before Facebook, Twitter and even text messaging. Are they falling foul of nostalgia or is it a case they simply know too much on the “inside”.

Should this Neo-Luddite approach be taken up by more, particularly within the legal industry? Will lawyers look to self-preservation and approach AI in a more collaborative manner than what we have seen in other industries?

A report published by Deloitte last year (already outdated no doubt) suggests that 114,000 jobs in the legal sector are likely to become automated in the next 20 years as technology transforms the profession. Deloitte predict a tipping point by 2020 – WOW!

That was a prediction for only 4 years ahead! When we look at the Technology we use day to day and look at how that has changed. Compare a Samsung s8 to an iPhone 4 and you will catch my drift.

Ben Allgrove a partner at Baker McKenzie is quoted in the NY Times as saying “Where the technology is going to be in three to five years is the really interesting question. And the honest answer is, we don’t know.”

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